Warhawks open tournament play
WHITEWATER The UW-Whitewater men's basketball team is riding a wave of emotion.
The challenge is not to hit a breakwater.
The Warhawks host UW-La Crosse tonight in a WIAC Tournament semifinal at Kachel Gym. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Warhawks come off a week during which they leapfrogged both UW-Stevens Point and UW-River Falls to earn the undisputed WIAC regular-season title. Whitewater was one game down to both teams with just two games to play, but swept both of their games, while the Pointers and Falcons lost twice.
Now the Warhawks begin postseason play, with the goal of earning the automatic NCAA Division III tournament bid with a conference title.
The security blanket the Warhawks have is being ranked No. 1 in their region. Even a loss tonight might not be damaging enough to keep them out of the NCAA Division III tournament.
"I think we're in good shape," Warhawk coach Pat Miller said. "The key thing is all 22 of our wins are within the region. What we have to worry about is our ability to host and what (sectional) we're in."
The Warhawks defeated La Crosse twice during the regular season en route to their 22-3 record, and conference-winning 13-3 mark.
La Crosse (17-9, 8-5) is on a three-game winning streak, which included a win against River Falls that helped the Warhawks win the league title, a win at Superior and a win at Platteville in a quarterfinal tournament game Tuesday night.
"They are playing well right now," Miller said. "They're playing better offensively."
Whitewater defeated La Crosse, 60-45, at the Kachel Gym on Jan. 7, and won on the Eagles' court, 72-62, on Feb. 1.
Warhawk leader Chris Davis scored 50 points and had 20 rebounds in the two victories, including 27 and 12 in the win earlier this month at La Crosse.
"Davis was solid both games," Miller said. "The common thread is that we defended well in both games."
Davis finished the regular season as the WIAC's leading scorer and rebounder, despite missing some games with an ankle injury. Davis led the WIAC with a 23-point scoring average and an 8.3 rebound average.
Defense has been the key to both teams' success.
Whitewater led the league allowing just 57.5 points per game. La Crosse was second at 59.2. Platteville was a distant third at 64.2.
Luke Knoble is the Warhawks' second-leading scorer at 10.5.
The Eagles did not have a player average in double figures. Al Chery leads the Eagles with a 9.8 average, while Cory Degner is averaging 9.0.
The winner of the Whitewater-La Crosse semifinal plays the winner of tonight's Stevens Point at River Falls semifinal. The title game is Sunday at 2 p.m. If Whitewater wins, that game will be at Kachel Gym.